Ladies & Gents:
It's December 4th, which means the end of the year is hanging out at the bottom of the calendar. Later this month, I'll do a year end wrap up (like I did for 2018), but for now, here are six year end action items for all you freelancers out there:
Send client gifts. I use the word "gift" broadly. I've sent clients everything from bought-at-CVS cards to locally roasted coffee. I'm not going to tell you what I sent this year because they're still not in the mail, but they cost about $5 per person (with a Black Friday code applied). I should make a spreadsheet to use from year to year, but that's what an organized person would do. However, this also forces me to go down my 2019 invoice list and identify who were my big clients this year, who I lost touch with, who I wrote for once and I owe an email, and who I fired and will never write for again (and no, they do NOT get gifts). I'll also look at my 2018 list to see who has fallen off my radar – I wouldn't necessarily send them a gift, but I'll make sure to put them on me "follow up soon" list.
Find unpaid invoices. You should be monitoring your invoices closely, but if you let that slide, look now to see who's late. I know a few editors who are clearing the decks – and their budgets – for the year. Now's a good time to send those reminders that you're owed money.
Raise your hand for end of year work
Do this for the same reason as above: a lot of editors are looking to use up their budgets for the year, so if you have some off the wall idea that can be produced quickly, pitch away. This is an especially good idea if you have a light December. I'm going away for a few days before Christmas, and right after New Year's Day, but will be available in between. My editors know it.
Somewhat related: in high school and college, I filled in as receptionist for that week between Christmas and New Year at a construction company (my dad worked there). Of any non-writing job I've had, it has been the most valuable in preparing me to be a journalist. When I don't want to call someone (and often I don't), I put on that receptionist voice and sail right through.
Identify year end purchases. Make more money this year than you did last year? Then it may be time to upgrade your computer, buy a desk, or stock up on supplies. I signed up for a 2019 race (because race fees are research expenses for me) and ordered a slew of stamps. I also bought a new iPad, which serves as my second screen. I could have limped along with my eight-year-old device, which doesn't rotate when you turn the screen, but that's a business deduction I could use for 2019 (and the model I wanted was $100 off for Cyber Monday). I also have a few things flagged to check out the prices for post-Christmas. The year isn't over until the clock strikes midnight!
Plan 2020 Conferences. I mean this in three ways. First, are you going to any conferences in 2019? So far, I have the AHCJ conference in Austin. Obviously putting that on the calendar is important so I don't double book myself, but I'm also planning a road trip around it because of course I am.
Second, do you live in or near a place that has a lot of conferences? Put them on your calendar, and see how they could become work for you. For example, the American Heart Association had a conference in Philadelphia last month, so I let my editors at HealthTech know. They gave me two assignments (which are in the "Recent Bylines" below). This can also be a good time to meet your clients in person if they're traveling to your city. For example, I have a client in Utah. They sent folks to the Philadelphia conference, so I made sure we met up (and they bought me lunch – how nice!) You most likely won't have to pay for the conference either – just ask for a press pass. You may have to produce a letter from your editor vouching for you, but that's not hard.
Third, if your client is putting on a conference near you, you can also offer to help with conference coverage (the AHA put out a daily conference publication).
Of course, you could travel to conferences to do these things, but I'm lazy, so I look at what's just over the bridge from me. The conference/convention center near you should have a list of what's coming in the next year – the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which is in Philadelphia, does. So I'm putting conferences that might be of interest to my clients on my calendar, and will pitch accordingly in the new year.
Market. Right now, Jen? Really? When people are gone? Well, people aren't gone, and those who assign work are looking toward January and February content. Plus, marketing right now means you won't be caught up in the post New Year shuffle, so there's no better time to send out a few LOIs. I don't mean send them on Christmas Eve, but the next two weeks are perfect for sending out a few emails (and then you can follow up on them in the New Year).
Freelancers, what do you do at this "close but not quite" end of year time?
Speaking of cool freelancers, thank you for everyone who responded to my last newsletter. Y'all had a lot of kind words and really key advice. I don't know what's going to happen – they're not showing anyone the changes they've made to the bill BECAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE. There's a hearing and a rally in Trenton on Thursday (since the NYT ethics guidelines prevent us – even freelancers – from being politically active, I can't go). I do know that the lawmakers trying to shove this bill through during a lame duck session severely underestimated us. It takes a lot of guts to quit a full time job and launch a career on their own. They had no idea who they were messing with.
"Running a Marathon with My Mom," New York Times
"If New Jersey worker bill passes, I may need to move to continue my freelance career," Philadelphia Inquirer
"Alternative medicine and clinical laboratory practice," Clinical Laboratory News
"From IoT to AI, tech's role grows on the farm," CIO Dive
"How are advances in technology impacting patient care?" HealthTech
"How electronic health records can improve patient care" HealthTech
"Why medical devices require modern UI," HealthTech
"How to Get Your Running In During the Holidays," New York Times
What I'm Reading
- The Cactus League by Emily Nemens. This is OK. It comes out next year, time to spring training.
- Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden. I think we're almost all aware that things are bad in North Korea, but this lays it all out. I took this in as an audiobook. It's one of the few times I didn't mind the author, who is not an actor, reading it. Its as almost like listening to a podcast (and it's a short book too) (also I got this through the Libby app via my library).
- How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood by William J. Mann. I like this, but not as much as Mann's book about Katherine Hepburn. Part of that may be because Taylor's been written about so much before, especially in Furious Love Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger about her relationships with Richard Burton, which I hold as THE standard in Hollywood biography.
- American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin. This is about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. It's one of those things I sort of knew about but realize I didn't know the details. This is also an audiobook, also procured through the Libby app.
- Paddling My Own Canoe by Audrey Sutherland. This is for work, so no more about it here :-)
- The Crown. JFC who cares this much about Phillip? No one. NO ONE. Except for maybe Philip himself. IN a show about the Queen, shouldn't it be more about her? I don't regret watching it though – interested to see season four when…a lot happens to the royal family.
- Swiss Family Robinson. Yes of course I have Disney+. Good time to be reminded about how problematic some of these old Disney movies are. There is, of course, racism, but I can see why the filmmakers were accused of animal abuse. No way they'd get even a fraction of the shots today that they did here. Also, why is In Search of the Castaways not on here yet? And why does Babes in Toyland, which has a whole song about how girls are bad at math, not have a content warning like this movie does? Humph.
- Sword in the Stone. I forgot how tidy these movies were. The sorcerer's battle was maybe seven minutes? Apparently they're doing a live action version of this movie. I hope that scene doesn't drag on.
- The Plausible Impossible. Spending time on Disney+ has also made me realize how cut up some of these original pieces were – in that they were reorganized for TV specials that we'd taped off TV onto VHS. I think the Donald Duck portion was shown as part of his 50th birthday special. My brother didn't remember the other segments of the feature either.
- The Three Caballeros. This is the first thing I watched on Disney+ and it's wild. If it was filmed 30 years later, I'd just yell "drugs!" at the screen.
- Jane the Virgin. YIKES this last season drug on. I kept it on because I felt like I needed to finish the series out.
- Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. When I told my dad I watched Davy Crockett, he said which one. When I told him this one, he said "the second one is funnier." Well yeah. He doesn't die at the end of that one. (Dad used to sing me Mike Fink's song from Davy Crockett and the River Pirates every time a hurricane threatened me in college in Florida which was…a lot.)
- Nailed It! Holiday! Season 2. Not only is this the only reality show I watch, but it is also the only one I'd want to be on. I have thought about sending in a video! I'd say it's a dumb show, but it's really not. Everyone knows the premise (bad baking) and has fun with it. It is a JOY. This season, Paul Scheer is on the show – not as a judge, but as a contestant. He loves it that much. I'd love to see his audition tape, because based on some clips, he made one, just like every other potential contestant did.
Jen A. Miller